Cape Gazette
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Healthy Geezer

Secondhand smoke poses many dangers

By Fred Cicetti | May 14, 2014

Q. How dangerous is secondhand smoke?

Secondhand smoke - also called environmental tobacco smoke - is made up of the “sidestream” smoke from the end of a cigarette, pipe, or cigar, and the “mainstream” smoke that is exhaled.

Nonsmokers exposed to secondhand smoke absorb the same 4,000 chemical compounds that smokers do. More than 60 of these compounds are known or suspected to cause cancer.

About one in a hundred deaths worldwide is caused by secondhand smoke, which kills an estimated 600,000 people a year, according to World Health Organization researchers.

Secondhand smoke causes increased cardiovascular risks by damaging blood vessels, decreasing your ability to exercise and altering blood cholesterol levels.

Some research indicates that people exposed to a spouse’s cigarette smoke for several decades are about 20 percent more likely to have lung cancer. Those who are exposed long-term to secondhand smoke in the workplace or social settings may increase their risk of lung cancer by about 25 percent.

Some of the components found in tobacco smoke that are known to cause cancer or are suspected to be carcinogenic include: formaldehyde, arsenic, cadmium, benzene and ethylene oxide.

Here are a few other chemicals in tobacco smoke along with their effects: ammonia (irritates lungs), carbon monoxide (hampers breathing), methanol (toxic when inhaled) and hydrogen cyanide (interferes with respiration).

Throughout the world, governments are taking action against smoking in public places, both indoors and outdoors. Smoking is either banned or restricted in public transportation. Several local communities have enacted nonsmokers’ rights laws, most of which are stricter than state laws.

Although air-conditioning may remove the visible smoke in your home, it can’t remove the particles that continue to circulate and are hazardous to your health, so don’t delude yourself that running the AC is the answer to secondhand smoke dangers.

There are many programs available to help with smoking cessation. Call your doctor for some recommendations.

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